Guest blog post courtesy of Executive Coach, David Rabiner.
This summer’s Leadership Summit – An Exclusive Executive Experience in Denver as most of you know, was originally scheduled for last year. The Leadership Summit was (and is) intended specifically for top-tier construction owners and managers, as well as graduates of MBI’s The Leadership Experience and recipients of the coveted Master Builder Achievement Award. As someone who has been teaching leadership for more than a quarter century, I was looking forward to working with a tight circle of great leaders – at a really beautiful location – to see how we can take their leadership development to an even higher level.
Keep in mind that while the pandemic is perhaps the biggest leadership challenge most of us have faced, for top leaders it is also a leadership opportunity. What that means for those attending this summer is we can have some important discussions about where leadership can go from this point forward. We are not talking about merely “managing the new normal”. Our focus will be on taking a hard look at how we present ourselves as leaders, about the fundamental cultural changes we need to make to be able to attract and retain the highest quality people, and about the necessary communication changes we need to make so that it all happens. Until we meet in Denver, here’s a look at where we are now and what you can do today.
- The pandemic – oppressive, disruptive, and laden with grief – has taken its toll. A recent survey found that 75% of employees in the United States report symptoms of burnout: low energy, negativity or cynicism, and feeling unproductive.
- The busy construction industry has had its own set of pandemic-related challenges: new work site safety concerns, disrupted schedules due to COVID-19 outbreaks among trade partners and manufacturers, and employees with families struggling to keep them safe and balance job site work with childcare.
- This constant emotional load on employees has forced construction leaders to look for new ways to connect and support their workforces. It has accelerated a movement that was well underway before the pandemic – to put people and talent at the heart of the company’s success.
Traditional leadership models emphasized uniformity, hierarchy, and control. Contemporary leadership recognizes how connected people are today and capitalizes on the easy exchange of information to build loyalty, inspire excellence, facilitate innovation, and promote the brand. This is a fundamental shift of power away from corporate control to the company’s relationship with its employees. Put another way, leaders realize more and more that employees who feel disconnected and disillusioned can and will vote with their feet.
Recognizing that your connection with employees is more important than ever, what can you do now to help ease the emotional load your employees are carrying?
- Listen to their stories about how they have coped during the pandemic. Given their resources versus yours, it’s likely their journey during the pandemic has been more difficult. Hear what they have to say, try to understand what they’ve lost and are grieving. Get a feel for what they have been up against. Listen closely for signs of burnout. Invest in their well-being.
- Express tempered optimism and hope. Describe what this experience has meant for the company. Give meaning to the experience. Talk about how the company has survived, what you collectively have learned, accomplished, and innovated during the pandemic. Lay out the realistic path you see for vaccinations, re-openings, celebrations, growth, and success.
- Find out how they want to work moving forward. The pandemic has disrupted traditional work routines, practices, and technologies. How do they see the future of work at your company? What changes do they want to embrace? Where would they like to experiment, innovate?
- Review, renew, and talk about your company’s purpose and values. The pandemic has forced many of us to personally evaluate what we value most. Your company should do the same. As part of that process, find out what’s important to employees and look for areas of alignment.
These steps will help you connect with your work force, and connection is something we have been deprived of and are all hunger for. They will help begin the healing and start the transition to a new beginning.
I look forward to seeing you this summer in Denver. I’ve met many of you over the years, and I look forward to reconnecting with you. If you’re eligible for The Leadership Summit and not signed up, now would be a good time to get your name in there. And, as always, please stay safe.